TALLINN - Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas received the International Republican Institute's Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Award in Washington D.C. on Monday in recognition of her as well as Estonia for being advocates of open governance and democratic values and shining a light on the geopolitical challenges the world is facing.
In her remarks after receiving the award, the prime minister said that it is the duty of Europe and the United States to pursue a world where freedom and democracy prevail.
Kallas cited US president Ronald Reagan, who warned that freedom is a fragile thing and it is never more than one generation away from extinction.
"The bottom line is that democracies and securing freedoms need constant care and defense. And threats to democratic norms can come from outside, as well as from within. Our liberal democracies need to deliver not only hope in a better future, but also tangible results for our people," she said.
"Innovation needs to be put into the service of our own people and democratic governance," Kallas noted, and pointed out that 99 percent of Estonia's government services -- from paying taxes, to electing the parliament, to registering the name of a new-born -- are offered online.
"I am describing our approach because it illustrates a mindset that I think should form a basis for governance in the 21st century. We should not think of innovation purely in terms of innovative products or breakthrough technologies. Innovation needs to be put into the service of our own people and democratic governance," she added.
"Governments cannot be passive observers of technological progress. We must all be active students. Estonia is not alone in re-imagining government for the digital age -- we need to do this together. I hope Team Europe and Team America will work together on how technology can reinforce and support democracy and openness," the prime minister said.
Kallas pointed out that the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Award is an important recognition to her and to Estonia.
"As Estonia's first female prime minister, this award also means a lot for gender equality. It helps to build the future where one day it doesn't make headlines that a head of government is a woman (or a man)," she noted. "I trust that times are changing in this direction, albeit slowly."
The award given to Kallas is named after Jeane J. Kirkpatrick who was the foreign policy adviser to president Reagan, the first female UN ambassador of the United States and a renowned foreign policy thinker.
The International Republican Institute (IRI) is an American nonprofit organization founded in 1983 and committed to advancing freedom and democracy worldwide. The institute also includes the Women's Democracy Network.